The Main Idea with "The Dinosaur Herds"

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SWBAT locate supporting details and identify the main idea in an informational text.

Big Idea

Do you know how dinosaurs used to work together?

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

I love how the writer's of Common Core have given us cause to balance literature with informational text so that science and social studies content can be explored more through reading.  This is another lesson that has students reading and writing in the different content areas.

As we read and discuss the story, students will have to answer text-dependent questions about the story and use evidence to back up their thinking.  This addresses standard RI1.1.  When we begin to write our own stories, I will be asking students what the main idea and details of several of the pages in the book.  This addresses standard RI1.2.  Finally, students will write their own stories with main ideas and details.  This addresses standard W1.2.

This lesson utilizes the leveled reader, "Dinosaur Herds," from Pearson's Reading Street; however, you can use any book that shows how dinosaurs work together (ex. hunting, making nests, caring for their young etc..).

The books that the students will write are going to be like a pop-up book.  To prepare them, I took 3 different colors of 12x18 construction paper.  I folded them on the horizontal axis, layered them one on top of each other and then glued them together.  I also made some tabs for the students to put their clip art pictures against, creating a pop-up like effect.  To give you a better idea,  I have this resource, How to Prepare Strips for Pop Ups, that will show you how to prepare the tabs and gives you an idea of where to glue the characters on the tabs.  I also copied enough writing paper so my students could write as much as they wanted.  If you want to make these books you'll need construction paper for books and tabs, the Dinosaur Herds, and writing paper Horizontal Writing Paper.

A note about the lessons within this unit: I have an hour to teach 4 small groups each day.  Each group gets 15 minutes with me each day.  I am writing this lesson as a whole lesson, but I could never get it done with each reading group all in one day.  Realistically it took me 3 days to do this lesson with each group.  You can easily take this lesson and chunk it out to how it will fit your classroom based on what your district mandates and what time restraints you have in your classroom.

Reading and Discussion of the Story

20 minutes

This is the first day with the story, so we discussed vocabulary in order to ensure that students would be successful in their initial reading of the story.  We discussed what a herd was.  We also talked about vocabulary that wasn't in the story but we could utilize in our story such as predator and prey.  We read the story, and after some of the pages we would stop and discuss those concepts more in depth. If you look at the shifts in English Language Arts for the Common Core Standards you'll see that the first shift is regular practice with complex text and academic language.  I know I need to be intentional when I teach vocabulary because if my students don't understand  the key vocabulary in the text, both their comprehension and written responses will be hampered. If you refer to pg. 33 in Appendix A of the standards, you'll read about the different tiers of vocabulary. I am teaching tier 2 vocabulary to my students when I teach them words like "herd," "predator," and "prey."  These are the words that are closely tied to the context of this text but will be applicable outside this text as well. 

The second shift in the standards  is reading, writing, and speaking, grounded in evidence from texts, both literary and informational.  A key component in this part of the lesson is the implementation of text dependent questions.  I know I need to be asking questions that the students can only answer by going back and looking at the text closely.  This resource, Prompts-for-Text-Dependent-Questions, might help you as you plan your text dependent questions. My students' comprehension was strengthened because we had such rich that included our tier 2 vocabulary and our text dependent questions.  Some examples of the text dependent questions I asked were:

  • How did the older triceratops protect the baby triceratops when predators came near?
  • What did the smaller dinosaurs have to do when hunting a larger dinosaur?
  • What did dinosaurs do to protect their eggs ?

Writing Our Story

30 minutes

It was time to write our own stories. The students' stories were going to closely mirror the book that we were reading.  I wanted to guide my students through the writing process, yet at the same time, I wanted each of my student's writing to be authentic and show off their creativity, so I didn't use a template or any sentence frames.  I found that if I broke each written page down in steps for my students that they would be successful in the writing process.

We went back into the story because I know that my students need to use text evidence when they write.  We discussed some of the main points of the story.  I said, "Let's read this page again.  What is the main idea of this page?"  After students had told me the main idea I said, "Now turn your books over.  Who can tell me a sentence about the main idea in their own words?"  After students had heard several examples I said, "Now, please write the main idea in your own words in your book."

Once students had written their main idea sentences, I said, "Turn your book over again.  Who can find a detail sentence that supports the main idea?  Who can tell me another sentence?"  Then I said, "Turn your books over again.  Who can tell me some detail sentences in their own words?  Who can say it a different way?"  Once students had heard several examples I said, "Write your detail sentences in your own words please."

Some examples of what students wrote were:

  • How triceratops defended their young as a herd.
  • How dinosaurs had to work together to hunt.
  • What dinosaurs had to do to protect their eggs.

You can get a better idea of how my students did this by watching this video Dinosaur Herds

After completing the written work and before we edited, I let the students take their work back to their seats to work on their artwork as part of their seat work routine.  Students could continue to work on their writing while I was working with other reading groups.

Peer Editing

15 minutes

This is the first year that I've ever had my students engage in peer editing. Previously, I've thought that peer editing was too difficult for my students.  But with the implementation of the Common Core standards, I decided that I needed to increase the rigor in my classroom, and that meant that I had to become a bit uncomfortable myself as I am learning and growing in my teaching practices as well. 

When I did this lesson I had just begun the process of implementing peer editing into my lessons.  I remember giving my students directions to make sure sentences made sense and to look for correct conventions, but it was in later lessons that I realized that specific modeling and using a checklist really help students in the editing process. I've included the checklist for you: Editing Checklist for Dinosaur Herds

I wish I could tell you that I did such an amazing job modeling how to peer edit for this group.  What I can tell you is that next time I will!  I've learned to model as I go through the checklist so students know exactly what is expected of them when working with a partner.  Even though I could have done a much better job with modeling my expectations for my students you can see in the video, Peer Editing Dinosaur Herds, that my students didn't do too badly working with their partners.


3 minutes

I am really trying to make my closures engaging this year.  I found this resource,40 ways to leave a lesson, online and have tried to do many of the ideas in this resource. 

Today I decided we would try idea #5 from the resource, called "Whip Around."  I had a koosh ball and I threw it to the first person.  I said, "You need to tell me one thing that you learned about dinosaurs as a result of reading this book."  We went around the group and each person told me something they learned.  No one could repeat something that was previously said.  The closure went quickly, and it was a great way to summarize our learning.